WHEN Jaskirat Singh Nagra was gifted an old Triumph Herald by his grandfather around 25 years back, little did this auto enthusiast, now 42-year-old, know that this would help him develop a much-cherished hobby. As a child, Jaskirat would be fascinated with cars and off-road vehicles, particularly Army jongas, especially since his father was in the Army. At the age of 12, he would sneak out of their house in Rajasthan with his father’s jeep and drive the vehicle over the dunes. This is how he learnt driving.
Inspired by his maternal uncle, who is a genius with automobiles, Jaskirat began by making minor modifications and tinkering with his father’s cars. However, it was only when he was able to get himself a decommissioned jonga in 2010 that he was able to restore it to its original specifications. The appreciation he received from his friends and family prompted him to pursue his hobby in earnest. An Electronics and Telecommunication Engineer, besides an MBA from Lancaster University, Chandigarh-based Jaskirat has many badges of honour that he wears proudly. These include a gold medal in SMT (surface mount technology). His present profile as vice-president, heading a company within the CDIL (Continental Device India Limited), leaves him with little time to pursue his hobby. Therefore, he utilises Sundays for it. So much so that he has not taken a Sunday off for the past two years.
Lovingly called “Weekend Warrior” by his friends, Jaskirat usually takes around six to eight weeks to complete work on one vehicle. The time spent at the garage is also the time for the family to bond as most of the time he is accompanied by his wife and two sons, who share his passion.
His parents too are supportive of his hobby. While his mother continues to inspire him, his father, a retired Army officer, helps by overseeing the instructions he gives to his small team of seasoned workers.
The vehicle he enjoyed working on the most was Gul Panag’s Super Milo. The adventure enthusiast actor, model, social activist had entrusted him with preparing an expedition vehicle for offbeat journeys.
About the kind of modifications that people usually go in for, he says, “Off-road driving and tough looks go hand in hand. Most of the people want the exterior of their vehicles to be enhanced. However, the more serious ones want added features to tackle extreme driving conditions.”
General modifications include suspension enhancement, snorkels, special exhausts, auxiliary lights, sports seats, roof racks etc. The price of each accessory ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, depending on the requirement.
“I don’t work to a plan and normally undertake only selective projects”, says Jaskirat, who is also fond of riding and squash.
He says, “The most important aspect of creating these modifications is the ability to visualise your creation.” He spends his evenings browsing the net, reading automotive journals and books.
About the increasing demand for these modifications, Jaskirat says, “Automotive enthusiasts come in every gender and age. The concept of adventure is fast catching up in India. Off-road driving is popular across all age groups.”
He’s inspired by people like Chip Foose of Foose Design, Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast Customs, and Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign but his all-time favourite has been late Carroll Shelby, American automotive designer who could flawlessly combine performance and design.
From the number of inquiries he gets, he feels there is a good market for modifying cars, and at some point in his life, he would like to devote more time to it. Jaskirat dreams of having a customisation shop on the lines of car design and remodelling company Foose Design. He would also like to set up a company that organises off-road expedition trips across the country.
However, at present, his plate is full, with work that is equally enjoyable. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination”. He is enjoying the journey.